Our Mental Wellbeing Story
“Our vision at BPA is to create a mentally healthy workplace with an engaged workforce that is productive, resilient and positive. We want to create an open culture that enables disclosure and breaks the stigma surrounding mental health”
A great vision I’m sure you’ll agree, but how do we actually enable that? Well the answer for us was a particularly brave employee who came forward with a vision of how we could all help each other. Elle Neal is a highly successful Project Manager in our organisation who suffered with anxiety and depression after her son was born. She started running to help with her recovery and with the support of England Athletics became a Mental Wellbeing Ambassador for her Running Club, Women on the Run.
Elle came to me with the idea that we could set up a Mental Wellbeing Team at BPA Quality, comprised of individuals in the business who had themselves suffered with some kind of Mental Health issue. She believed that through the sharing of personal stories and experiences, we would be able to support each other and reach out to anyone in the organisation looking for some kind of help.
Elle says, “It was pretty scary talking about my personal experiences for the first time, but it has been worth it. So many people have come forward to talk to me and I am finding that they are now paying it forward to others. I was so moved by the response I got from the first email to the company looking for others to come forward and work with me on this campaign, and I am really proud of our Mental Wellbeing Team.”
The effects of anxiety, stress and depression on workers
Our research showed us that 1 in 6 workers in the UK is dealing with anxiety, depression or stress. Work is identified as one of the most stressful factors in people’s lives and mental health problems among workers is anticipated to cost the UK economy over £26billion every year.
Some of the workplace triggers affecting this are:
• Unrealistic expectations or deadlines
• Negative relationships or poor communication
• Lack of managerial support
• Job insecurity or change management
• Lone working
So, we agreed that the Key Drivers for our Mental Wellbeing Team were to:
• Protect our employees from discrimination
• Support our employees with their mental wellbeing
• Equip our line managers to have effective conversations about mental health wellbeing
• Provide information about mental health and signpost to support services
• Raise awareness about mental health through the sharing of personal experiences
• Reduce the stigma of mental health and enable people to be honest and talk about their issues
As a team, we agreed that we should focus our efforts on 3 key areas for improvement:
• To promote mental wellbeing
• To tackle work related causes of mental health issues
• To support employees with mental health issues
Since October 2017 we have been working hard to encourage peer to peer support through our Mental Wellbeing Champions, developing mental wellbeing activities and knowledge resource for all employees through the use of our Intranet site, and creating an open culture that enables disclosure.
We’re still keen to keep developing our strategy and 2018 finds us:
• Reviewing policies and practices that interact with employee wellbeing
• Ensuring line managers are supported and confident in dealing with mental health issues
• Promoting a culture of 1-2-1s where mental health and wellbeing are prioritised
• Creating a working environment where people feel able to perform at their best
It is often said by organisations that ‘our people are our most important asset’. This has never been truer. If we primarily employ people for their minds, it makes business sense to ensure employees are as mentally healthy and as effective as possible.
Delighted with the recognition
We were delighted when the BBC recognised the great work our team have been doing to promote Mental Wellbeing and help reduce the stigma associated with Mental Health. When they asked to come and film one of our Mental Wellbeing monthly meetings and speak to some of our ‘champions’, we readily agreed. It’s great to have that external recognition, but the real satisfaction comes from the stories that our team are telling about how this approach has helped them to bring their ‘whole self’ to work.
Elle says “The greatest learning I have had through this whole process is that I am not alone and neither are any of our employees. Mental health issues affect 1 in 4 people and can be caused by a variety of reasons that are mostly out of our control.
“This sounds pretty scary right? Well, luckily there is so much support out there and there are a variety of lifestyle changes that can help build resilience to mental health issues. I strongly recommend setting goals and challenges, but when it comes down to it, it’s all about finding what works well for you.”
We’re always keen to hear how other organisations are approaching this so please do get in touch if you’d like to hear more and share thoughts and ideas.
HR Director EMEA